A twinkle in our eye: fan generated content

We built Ruins of Elysia on two very basic mechanics (we did put our own spin on a couple of things, though): Deck Building and Tile Laying. 

The tile-laying mechanic does the heavy lifting in terms of exploring and building the map.  Exploring also involves a push-your-luck mechanic in that as long as you still have movement, every time you place a tile you may choose to end your movement there, or you can keep walking and find out what lays over the next horizon.  There are empty terrain tiles and overlay tiles (made out of the same material so you can’t tell until they are drawn) that make up the map.  Right now we have 5 terrain types (desert, forest, water, mountain and plains) and 3 overlays (village, ruins, and fortress).  Monsters always spawn in Ruins.  Villages allow players access to the card market.  The fortress is the end boss’s lair.  We would love to have more terrain and overlay types, but we want our base game to be reasonably priced. 

We didn’t try to re-invent the wheel when it came to deck-building.  Our goal is to keep the game as simple and therefore as accessible as possible.  While a careful reading of our rulebook will reveal some “neat tricks,” at no point does the game require you to know them to accomplish a goal.  In fact, we only broke one norm when it comes to standard deck-building mechanics.  In almost every deck-builder, you draw your hand at the end of your turn, play cards, then discard all cards played and all cards still in your hand.  That last one was the part we chose to break.  Since you might need more weapons cards than money cards (or vice versa), you can leave cards in your hand. 

There are only 5 types of resources in the game that the cards provide: coin, card draw, walk, attack and defense.  In the interest of keeping things simple, we don’t plan on changing this.  Of course, we aren’t counting any text based special ability on the cards themselves as a resource.  We would love to add more item cards to the market, the Exploration Deck and even more playable characters, but we feel anything more than what we have right now should be in addition to the base game, such as through booster packs (maybe a new character deck in a tuck box) and expansions.

Granted, we took significant liberties in designing our combat system.  There are no dice in Ruins of Elysia.  Combat occurs in repeating rounds of attacking and defending because players can only play one card each time they attack or defend.  You cannot stack attack or defense, and you must discard a number of cards from your hand equal to the attack value you are unable to defend against.  We feel this makes for a much more interesting combat system.  Rather than just showing you have the required attack points or rolling a die and hoping you succeed, combat requires cunning hand management and reading your opponent.  Due to this combat system, no player starting deck affords their character more than 2 attack (or 4 if they use their special card that allows them to play more than one).

So that’s it, the three systems at the core of Ruins of Elysia: simple deck-building, simple tile-laying, and a combat system based on back and forth hand management.  Why is this relevant?

It may be just a twinkle in our eye right now, but so too was Ruins of Elysia.  After our kickstarter ends (assuming we are successful), we want to add a feature to our website that allows fans to create their own official content.  We’d be looking for things that add to our base game in some way: new terrain tiles, overlay structures, character starting decks, and anything else our fans want to see that we haven’t thought of.  Of course, we don’t want to break the tenets that we believe make Ruins of Elysia a great game:

  • A true open world for your tabletop. You can explore to your heart’s content and the game doesn’t punish you for it.
  • Exciting, strategic combat.
  • Not just multiple paths to victory, but multiple end game goals available to all players at all times.

What makes a game fun?

I was sitting down with my business partner/longtime friend, Chris, who has been creating the art for Ruins of Elysia, when he asked me an interesting question, “what makes a game fun?”  Granted, he was asking me this question because we were working out how to pitch Ruins of Elysia, but it got me thinking. 

What are the games I like, and why do I like them?  Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominion is probably my favorite game of all time.  Before Dominion I did not consider myself a gamer.  Dominion made me realize that my favorite game mechanic was deck-building.  But why?

I love most deck-builders, but I have some bones to pick with some of them.  Ascension is a great deck-builder, especially due to its ability to support more than the 4-player limit of Dominion.  However, there are aspects of Ascension that I don’t like.  I don’t like Ascension’s marketplace, because the random nature of the market mechanic makes it very difficult to plan ahead and strategize.  That’s actually a minor gripe, though.

I think big turns are the crux of what make deck-builders fun.  In Dominion, you can plan ahead based on what cards you buy and see it pay off towards the end when you churn through your entire deck and purchase the last couple of provinces for the win.  That kind of turn takes a lot more luck to pull off in Ascension.  It’s harder to get cards that do specific things like get rid of unwanted cards from your hand or get cards to allow you to draw cards.

I’m not as one-dimensional as I sound, however.  Deck-builders may be my favorite, but they aren’t the only type of game I enjoy.  I would have to place tabletop RPGs second, such as Pathfinder.   Unfortunately, they are a lot of work.  I’m pretty good at writing a story, but I’m not sure I could do so on the fly.  I need to see my words so I can think about them carefully, so I’m probably not cut out to be a DM.  I might be able to feed a DM story in chat format, but that just seems impractical.  Anyways, we’re getting off topic.  What makes tabletop RPGs fun?  Granted, this is my opinion.  I like exploring and hearing the story.  I have yet to play Above and Below, but its storybook mechanic has me intrigued.

One of the games that I find myself playing repeatedly with my avid board gaming friend I refer to as “draw your track” games.  The use of a map adds another dimension to gameplay and I feel a sense of adventure.  These games usually feature a random stack of cards that include events and delivery requests.  The gameplay then focuses on you drawing the most efficient set of track to get those loads to the places requesting them to make the most money. 

I definitely suffer from wanderlust, so I love games that use maps as their mechanic.  In fact, I thought it was amusing to play Empire Builder on the Empire Builder line when my friends and I rode it to Chicago.  Train games aren’t the only map based game I like, though.  Runebound is great, albeit long.  I do have a preference for controlling a character, rather than a faction such as Small World.

It’s September 2019

I thought I would come back to my first blog since I recently read something relevant. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the source (I think it was a scholarly article via Google). Anyways, the main point of the article was that for a board game to be fun it required two things. As far as the game is concerned, the article asserted, ultimately it served only one purpose: to put constraints on what you can do. So for it to be fun, the player had to enjoy whatever activity was still permitted by the components of the game and its constraints. Basically, our personal tastes will always be a factor in whether or not a game is fun.